Delicate threads of crystal spilling over a simple circular frame, Todd Bracher's aptly named Strandelier takes the traditional chandelier back to its most basic form. Elegant and understated, it's a far cry from the oversized, overly elaborate fixtures that crowd hotel lobbies, residences and malls in this part of the world.
"When it comes to chandeliers, we have too often seen a misinterpretation of rich as very ornate, heavy and complicated," says Marie-Noelle Swiderski, the managing director of the Dubai-based interior design firm Blanchard. "This has led to an overdose of crystal, convoluted metal frameworks, candle tips with shades, baubles and the like."
While examples in this region may be thin on the ground, chandeliers can, in fact, be a tasteful addition to any space. They create a dramatic focal point, and their sculptural qualities mean that they continue to add value to an interior long after the lights are switched off. Classical fixtures can be used in contemporary interiors to create playful contrast and, in an oversized room, chandeliers can create human scale by reducing the visual height of the space.
Most importantly, chandeliers come in all shapes and sizes, which presents plenty of scope for creativity. Designers continue to experiment with new forms and materials, meaning there's a chandelier out there for everyone. According to Swiderski, traditional materials such as metal, glass and crystal are being supplemented by new materials such as resin, acrylic, wood and porcelain, and even wax, rice paper and Velcro.
That's not to say that traditional materials are being supplanted entirely - they are just being revisited and reinterpreted. The Strandelier is a case in point. It uses crystal, a common component in chandeliers, to create a minimalist interpretation of a product that has traditionally been anything but. The fixture was launched this month during Euroluce, one of the world's leading lighting exhibitions, and forms part of Swarovski's inaugural Lighting Centrepieces collection.
The new collection features a total of six product families, including Crystal Empire, another product that turns traditional chandelier design on its head - this time by limiting the use of crystal to a simple circular frame and turning leather straps into the main decorative element. Proving that there is still room in the market for more traditional models, Swarovski also used the show to premiere a collection of classic chandeliers produced under its Schonbeck brand. These included Ekaterina, a grandiose fixture inspired by Catherine the Great.
Preciosa, a Czech designer, manufacturer and distributor of custom-made chandeliers, used Euroluce to launch a collection called Beyond Belief - The Sea of Light. The company's designers used the depths of the sea as a source of inspiration, drawing on its organic shapes, undersea streams, colourful coral reefs and the interplay between light and water. The resultant collection includes the delicate, handcrafted Gorgonian and Fluentum, in which a series of crystal beads are strung together to resemble air escaping from the bottom of the sea and bubbling up towards the surface.
With so many options on the market, choosing the right chandelier can be a daunting task. Swiderski recommends selecting one style direction and complementing it with a simple framework and choice of colour. "This could even mean no colour or perhaps only a hint of colour at the tips," she says. "It is not exactly that less is more, as a minimalist chandelier might also seem mean and too stark. It is more a case of balance and harmony."
In the UAE, Dubai's Four Seasons Ramesh Gallery offers a wide selection of classic and contemporary chandelier models, including the Beveled Arcs collection, which, uniquely, is fitted with curved crystals. For those looking for a more oriental-style option, Brasslight offers the extensive Antique Range and has a presence in Abu Dhabi, Fujairah and Dubai.
According to Neel Shukla, Four Seasons Ramesh Gallery's managing partner, scale is one of the most important things to consider when it comes to selecting a chandelier. In his experience, this is where most homeowners fail. As a general rule, taller ceilings require larger fixtures; if the chandelier is placed over a table, it should complement, rather than overpower it; and the diameter of the chandelier should be about two thirds of the diameter of the surface that it is suspended above.
"Huge living spaces with small chandeliers are the most common mistake," Shukla says. "I suggest that my clients always go with their gut feeling about a purchase. Lighting is a key component in any living space and one should invest time in making a decision."
A chandelier should be viewed as a long-term investment but that doesn't necessarily mean playing it safe. "Bear in mind that as much as a chandelier is a statement, it should be chosen for the long term and therefore as much as possible with the view that it will suit a changing scheme to the room, in terms of colour or style," says Swiderski. "So choose something that is unique and strong but hopefully that will not date too quickly. This often actually means that it is better if it is either a very timeless classic or actually completely 'out there', so that it will remain a conversation piece rather than a near miss."
Those looking for a truly "out there" solution could consider Philippe Starck's newest creation for Baccarat, Marie Coquine, which also made its debut at Euroluce. An outlandishly over-elaborate chandelier with an extra, somewhat unexpected addendum - an umbrella - Marie Coquine is a reminder that above all else, chandeliers should be fun.
Pay attention to scale: slightly too big is generally better than too small
Choose a chandelier that makes a statement but won't date
Stick with one style direction and select a simple frame
Create contrast by placing a classic chandelier in a contemporary interior
Make sure that you take the weight of your chandelier into account when you are attaching it
Chandeliers do not have to be confined to the living room or entrance area. Have fun designing them into your bedroom or bathroom
Where to find it
Four Seasons Ramesh Gallery
www.fourseasonsgallery.com, 04 334 9090
www.brasslightuae.com, 02 445 8864
www.preciosa.com, 04 883 8473
Swarovski Middle East
www.architecture.swarovski.com, 04 881 6562